A mother is suing her son’s former teacher and the Dinuba Unified School District for negligence and alleges the teacher hit her son in the face with a stack of papers.
The lawsuit, filed in Fresno County Superior Court this month by attorney Kara L. Hitchcock, alleges Edward Warkentin was upset with the 9-year-old boy and hit him in December 2016 at John F. Kennedy Elementary School.
The boy, as a result, suffered injuries and ongoing emotional distress, such as anguish, fright, horror, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, shock, humiliation and shame, the complaint says.
The lawsuit says Warkentin “used physical violence to lash out” and failed to exercise “ordinary care and due diligence.” The complaint says the school district was negligent in its supervision of the classroom and overall school learning environment.
“School employees either were negligent in not uncovering Warkentin’s hostile behavior or were negligent by knowing about it and letting it continue,” the complaint says.
The school district, which has a duty to supervise staff and ensure they are competent, failed to properly train, hire and or supervise its employees, according to the lawsuit.
The boy’s mother filed a claim with the district in May, but the district rejected it about a month later, the lawsuit says.
The Fresno Bee does not name victims who are minors and is not naming the mother to protect the victim’s identity.
Although the lawsuit says the incident occurred at an elementary school, the district’s website shows Warkentin now works at Sierra Vista High School, Ronald Reagan Academy and Dinuba Adult School.
A staff page says Warkentin attended Fresno Pacific University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree, teaching credential and a master’s degree in education technology. He’s worked for Dinuba Unified since 1996 and previously taught grades two through seven.
“I’ve always been passionate about technology, and how it can have a positive impact on teaching and learning,” Warkentin wrote on the district’s website.
Hitchcock, who is representing the boy’s family, said that since the lawsuit was filed additional families have come forward with similar experiences. The Dinuba Police Department also has launched an investigation, she said.
“With everything that goes on on playgrounds these days … the last thing that we should be worried about is a teacher being violent toward our child,” Hitchcock said. “Now the floodgates have opened. We’re getting calls from other parents. We now know this man is a menace and has been a menace going back as far as 17 years when he was at Jefferson (elementary school).”
Dinuba police Sgt. Jason Kent confirmed an investigation is ongoing and misdemeanor charges were recommended when the case was sent to the District Attorney’s Office. Kent said Warkentin is the only teacher involved in the investigation, but he couldn’t comment on the number of alleged victims.
The Tulare County District Attorney’s office also confirmed the case is under review, but no charges had been filed as of Thursday.
Warkentin could not be reached for comment.
Daniel Wainwright, an attorney for the McCormick Barstow law firm who is representing the school district, declined to comment on pending litigation but said district officials are looking into the matter.